Austrian parliament adopts registered partnership law for same-sex partners
On 10 December 2009, the International Human Rights day, the Austrian parliament passed a law on registered partnerships for same-sex partners. ILGA-Europe welcomes this development which makes Austria the 18th country in Europe which provides legal recognition for same-sex partners. The law will come into effect on 1 January 2010.
The other 17 countries in Europe which have gender neutral marriage law or provide registered partnership schemes for same-sex partners or have both are: Andorra, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
The law was prepared by the ruling coalition government between Social Democrats (SPÖ) and Christian Democrats (ÖVP – conservative People’s Party) who have parliamentary majority.
Homosexuelle Initiative (HOSI) Wien, ILGA-Europe's member in Austria, has always been fighting for a modern alternative to marriage such as registered partnership based on the Scandinavian or Swiss models. “What we have got now is actually quite comparable with the law in Switzerland where access to adoption and artificial insemination has also been excluded from the partnership law”, explains HOSI Wien president Jona Solomon. “That was again a categorical no-go for the Christian Democrats.” However, both adoption and artificial insemination are not exclusively linked to marriage in Austria as adoption is possible by a single person, too, and artificial insemination is also possible for non-married opposite-sex couples living in a domestic partnership.
“Another flaw of the Austrian law, however, is that registration will not take place at the same venue as marriage (city hall) but at a so-called administrative authority at district level”, says HOSI Wien president Christian Högl. “However, in cities such as Vienna, these authorities coincide in place, and therefore registration will take place in the same buildings and even rooms.”
“Despite these flaws, the law is a great success and victory for HOSI Wien”, explains secretary-general Kurt Krickler. “We have been fighting for this piece of legislation for more than 20 years. And we are quite happy that we succeeded to get more progressive divorce rules. For example, a registered partner will only be able to block the dissolution of the partnership up to three years, while a spouse can block the divorce of a marriage up to six years. Unlike for marriage, there will not be a state-imposed fidelity duty on registered partners, and consequently adultery will not be considered a reason for dissolving a registered partnership.”
“Of course, HOSI Wien will continue to struggle for the right to access to adoption and artificial insemination and for the right to register the partnership at city hall”, says Solomon. “And we are convinced that we sooner or later will succeed – once Austrian society has got used to registered same-sex couples. We do hope it will not take another 20 years!”
Ulrike Lunacek, former Austrian parliamentarian, now Austrian MEP and Co-President of the European Parliament's Intergroup on LGBT Rights, said: "On Human Rights Day 2010, this vote is a long-awaited important first step towards equality. But it is just the beginning."
"There is still a long way to go. A first analysis brings to light at least 45 differences between registered and married couples. Registered partners cannot choose a joint family-name; artificial insemination will be explicitly outlawed for same-sex couples; and step-parent adoption will be prohibited. But we will continue to fight for social acceptance and legal equality for lesbian and gay people", emphasised Ulrike Lunacek.